Pre-state paragon

Many historic buildings have survived on Rehov Harav Kook, which has been home to a hospital, the Hagana, a girls’ school and ‘The Palestine Post.’

Kukia house 311 (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)
Kukia house 311
(photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)
On July 31, 2008, the historic building at Rehov Harav Kook 7 was razed to the ground, one of many remnants of our history that can never be replaced (like the Palace Hotel and the Edison Theater, for example). The empty lot will soon be filled with high-rise luxury apartments.
To view those few wonderfully historic sites that still remain on Rehov Harav Kook, take a short stroll up and down the street’s sidewalks. Begin at the corner of Harav Kook and Rehov Hanevi’im, where a major landmark – the former Rothschild Hospital – still stands. Constructed in 1888, this building is regarded as the first Jewish hospital outside the Old City walls.
The hospital was originally situated in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, founded there in 1854 by scions of the House of Rothschild in memory of family patriarch Mayer Amschel Rothschild. But there were too many patients for the hospital to handle, so in 1888 they built a new hospital with additional beds at the top of Rehov Harav Kook. Rothschild Hospital offered free treatment and medication to patients of all religions and nationalities, and the house doctor made himself available three times a week to answer medical questions.
Shut down during World War I, the hospital began to deteriorate. In 1918 the facility was taken over by the Hadassah Women’s Organization of America and became Israel’s first Hadassah Hospital. The impressive building was later incorporated into the Hadassah College of Technology. Despite changes in the 1960s that ruined much of its outstanding beauty, the Rothschild Hospital is still a very imposing edifice.
Stand by the entrance to read the inscription above the door (“Hôpital Israélite Meyer Rothschild”) and the name in Hebrew, English and Arabic on the gatepost. Then examine the lovely lintels and decorative windows on all sides. The ground floor held the labs, the kitchen and servants’ quarters; the second story included one large room for female patients and another for men; the top story housed a synagogue, library and children’s wing. You can still see the lovely garden designed to soothe patients’ souls.
An oft-told story concerns a group of Presbyterians who came to Jerusalem at the end of the 19th century. They planned to be ready for the coming of the Messiah who, according to many traditions, will appear on the Mount of Olives. They brought with them the makings of an enormous tent that could be set up on the mountain for the lucky 5,000 souls who would be the first to be redeemed. But the Messiah didn’t come. So they left, storing their fabric, poles and pegs in various locations downtown until the equipment eventually ended up in the basement of the Rothschild Hospital.
When World War I broke out, the hospital ran out of sheets. Someone remembered the tents, commented that they were rotting away anyway, and cut them up for sheets. All the other remnants were used as fuel to help heat the patients’ rooms.
Next, turn left into a narrow pedestrian walkway that leads to Rehov Horkanus. At the end, on your right, stands the building that was home to The Jerusalem Post when it was The Palestine Post, and blown up by terrorists. The bombing took place on February 1, 1948, after terrorists had loaded a stolen police truck with half a ton of TNT and left it next to the building. Although the damage to the Post and surrounding buildings was severe, in true journalistic spirit the publishers produced a newspaper the very next day from temporary quarters. Look for historic pictures of the event on the wall opposite the building.
Back on Harav Kook, walk down to the elegant edifice at No. 12. Although the interior was recently renovated, the exterior retains its delightfully European look – mainly because of its stately door and beautifully carved balconies. Built in 1889, it has housed several establishments, including the Italian consulate, the Lebanon Hotel, some offices of The Jerusalem Post and boarding facilities for students from the yeshiva run by chief rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.
In later years it was the venue for the exclusive Maskit fashion house, a project initiated in 1954 by Moshe Dayan’s first wife, Ruth. Maskit provided new immigrants – especially from Yemen and North Africa – the means to earn a livelihood by using their talents in handicrafts and traditional designs.
The building, which has long belonged to the Italian Church, today is known as the Franciscan House. Inside are offices and a sanctuary where Catholic mass is heard in Hebrew.
A SIGN on a pillar outside No. 6 is all that remains of the Salomon Printing Press. The historic press was established inside the Old City walls in 1862 by Michal Cohen and Yoel Moshe Salomon, two of the original settlers who founded nearby Nahalat Shiva in 1869 as the third Jewish neighborhood outside the walled city. The earliest publication was a guidebook called Hashoshana – the Rose – because of its roselike shape. In 1863 the press published the first Hebrew newspaper in the Land of Israel, Halevanon. And in 1877, the press put out another paper, Judah and Jerusalem (Yehuda V’yerushalayim).
In 1872 Salomon moved his press to his new neighborhood. Ten years later, however, when he and some friends decided to found the city of Petah Tikva, he handed the business over to his sons. Two of his grandsons moved the press here, to Borochov House, in 1939. During the War of Independence its newspaper Yediot Aharonot was the only source of printed news in Hebrew for Jerusalemites under Arab siege. And for the next few decades the press provided new immigrants with newspapers and books in “easy Hebrew.” It closed down in 1992 after 130 years of operation.
Cross the street to the taxi stand and enter the large parking lot. From 1932 until 1959 this was the bustling, crowded, dirty, polluted central bus station. The exit onto the main street, where today there is a row of shops, was so narrow that when a bus left the station, police had to stop all the traffic on Jaffa Road. Facing the lot there is a gorgeous house, built in the 19th century and purchased by Benjamin and Rosa Kukia after their marriage. They rented it out to the Austrian government as a fitting home for the Austrian consul. The British based their Secret Service in this luxury home during the Mandate period. Eventually, the Kukia family moved to the first floor. The top floor was occupied by the clinic of ophthalmologist Dr. Avraham Ticho, who ran a hospital in larger premises next door. Today the house is occupied by the Christian Friends of Israel.
Now we come to construction over the unpreserved building that wasdemolished two years ago. It began as an orphanage in the mid-19thcentury. When the Laemel School, the first educational institution inJerusalem to teach in Hebrew, moved out of the Old City, this was itshome. Other institutions parked there as well. Most recently, it housedthe Ankori High School.
Past the entrance to Rehov Ticho thereonce stood a well-known two-story building. At the end of the 19thcentury and for about half a decade, it housed the Evelina deRothschild School for Girls. The school was a milestone in femaleeducation, founded in 1864 in the Old City and run for many years byEnglish-born principal Miss Landau.
During the British Mandate,the first floor housed a bakery and coffee shop. It belonged to thefamily of former Knesset member and government minister Gideon Patt.British officers took afternoon tea at the coffee shop, blissfullyunaware of the fact that the second story, right above where they weresitting, held Jerusalem’s Hagana headquarters.